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Q&A: Successfully planning your unified communications deployment, part 2

September 18, 2013

In part one of our conversation with Emily Nielsen, president of Nielsen IT Consulting we discussed the importance of strategy and planning when beginning a unified communications (UC) project. For part two, I thought we would pick Emily’s brain about the steps to successfully plan a unified communications project and how to tailor a deployment to meet the needs of your organization.

If you would like to know more about UC strategic planning, join Emily on October 24th at Nielsen IT Consulting’s UC Strategic Planning seminar.

Update: Read part three of our discussion with Emily here.

Ted Schirk: Do you think there is a right and wrong way to approach the planning stage of a UC project?

Emily Nielsen: At Nielsen IT Consulting we have developed a fluid methodology that we use to successfully plan for communication projects. Part of our methodology includes a “discovery process” that takes clients through the investigation, assessment, validation and acceptance stages.

TS: Would you be able to walk us through this discovery process?

EN: Absolutely. It starts with investigation. To fully understand the organization, the people, business processes, and technology components must be examined. In order to maintain a holistic approach, perform a top-down assessment of your organization.

The next step is assessment. Once all of the pertinent information and business requirements have been collected from the investigation, they are summarized and evaluated. A comparison of the business requirements to the actual environment will produce a documented gap analysis where the current infrastructure’s strong and weak points are in relation to the business requirements.

Businesses then enter the validation stage. During the entire process, there are several validation check points that need to be completed. The first is to validate the information collected on the existing infrastructure. The second is to validate the identified business requirements. The final validation will be of the results of the gap analysis.

The acceptance of the stages identified above is critical to the process. At each step the acceptance of the presented information determines if the project moves forward to the next stage. In addition, having the acceptance of your stakeholders aids in project approval.

During these phases, interaction with various individual and organizational units within the company is crucial. This interaction can be in the form of workshops, interviews, observation (i.e. contact centre/help desk live agent performance) and surveys. I provide additional details on this stage of the discovery process in this blog post.

TS: Now that we’ve gone through the discovery process, what do we do with the information?

EN:  The next step is to define your UC project’s vision. We’ve explored the steps you need to take in order to discover your organization’s requirements. An element of that process is conducting interviews with executives from a variety of departments within your company. A good practice prior to these meetings is being knowledgeable about your company’s vision statement(s).

TS: So does an organization’s vision statement influence a UC project or is it the other way around?

EN: The way a company operates should not be dictated by the technology. Rather, the technology should complement the drive and focus of the organization.

The vision statement should be a clear statement of what the organization commits to become within the next three to five years. Similar to a road map, its purpose is to commit the organization to a particular direction and communicate this commitment to employees, customers, shareholders and partners. Aligning your UC project vision(s) to your corporate vision(s) will give your UC project guidance towards a desirable end-result that will enhance the way your organization does business.

TS: Much like you did with the Discovery process, can you take us through the process of aligning a vision statement with UC project?

EN: I’d love to, let’s use Coca Cola as an example. I will align the UC project vision(s) to a few of Coca Cola’s corporate vision statements so you can see how we can define our UC requirements for a desired end-result. Although I’m only using three examples below, Coca Cola’s corporate vision consists of six clear statements concerning their people, portfolio, partners, planet, profit, and productivity.

People: “Bring to the world a portfolio of quality beverage brands that anticipate and satisfy people’s desires and needs.”

UC project vision takeaway: Products of quality should be supported by business communication systems of quality. When a customer contacts Coca Cola, the quality of service should be exceptional.

Planet: “Be a responsible citizen that makes a difference by helping build and support sustainable communities.”

UC project vision takeaway: Solution must demonstrate measurable energy savings and support work at home initiatives to reduce the corporate carbon footprint.

Productivity: “Be a highly effective, lean and fast-moving organization.”

UC project vision takeaway: Solution must empower the corporate employees with collaboration tools that can be used across many devices, regardless of location.

TS: Very interesting, that really puts thing in perspective. Thanks for sharing with our readers the impact that UC can have on an organization.

Emily and I will be back soon with part three of our discussion, where we will discuss identifying corporate requirements and UC applications.

If you would like to learn more about Cisco’s unified communications technologies, visit our website.  And if you would like to know more about UC strategic planning, join Emily on October 24th at Nielsen IT Consulting’s UC Strategic Planning seminar.

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